Innovation Labs 2024: Call for Academics

by | Mar 27, 2024 | BRC, Future events | 0 comments

Drug Discovery and Advanced Therapeutics: Overcoming business challenges with academic collaborations

Together with the Business Engagement Team and the Manchester NIHR Biomedical Research CentreTranslation Manchester are running an Innovation Lab taking place on Thursday 20th June 2024 focused on the theme of Drug Discovery and Advanced Therapeutics. The event is aimed at initiating and pump priming research projects co-developed by industry and academics addressing specific business challenges around Drug Discovery and Advanced Therapeutics. Over the course of the facilitated workshop, project plans will be developed by invited academics and industry partners, and pitched to a panel of experts for seed funding. We will pump prime successful projects with up to £20k each.

What areas are covered by the business challenges?

  • Generate proof-of-concept data in a human cell line model (human iPS-derived microglia-neuronal co-cultures) to identify the inflammatory signature of a novel anti-inflammatory drug to guide R&D and clinical development plans.
  • Characterisation of in vitro phenotype of iPSC-derived neurons, from Alzheimer’s disease patients and healty controls, as proof-of-concept for the use of a novel in vitro model for testing and screening new therapeutics (i.e. clinical trial in a dish)
  • Identify non-invasive, patient-friendly, downstream biomarkers to measure the efficacy of a drug that redirects a key protein to gap junctions to reduce inflammation in the brain (relevant to Parkinson disease and other brain conditions)
  • Explore the effects of proven anti-microbial small molecule inhibitors in a wide-range of infections beyond the original intended use of the inhibitors.

What type of expertise are the businesses looking for?

  • Cell culture techniques, molecular biology, immunology, microglia biology
  • Development, utilisation and analysis of disease-relevant models (neuroinflammation)
  • PK/PD modelling
  • Electrophysiology, biochemistry, and bioimaging
  • Measurement of spontaneous neuronal activity, measurement and/or imaging of organelle/sub-organelle compartments using confocal microscopy, and drug/stress challenge experiments
  • Parkinson’s Disease experts ideally with clinical trial design expertise
  • Biomarker identification and clinical trials expertise
  • Proteomics and metabolomics / multi-omics facilities for biomarker identification
  • Immunology and Inflammation experts
  • Intracellular pathogen infection assays (e.g. macrophages and/ or epithelial cells) for a wide range of pathogens.
  • Microbiology and bioimaging
  • Availability of pathogen strain libraries and the expertise to handle both slow and fast-growing pathogens of different species.
  • Access to priority pathogens (P aeruginosa, S. aureus etc) and expertise in intracellular infections
  • Expertise in in vitro lung models of infection and bioimaging

We have now received challenges from our business partners, and we are actively seeking academics to join the event. If you wish to find out more about this initiative, and want to take part in the workshop for an opportunity to develop industry collaborations and secure pump priming funding. Get in touch by Friday 10th May 2024 by emailing

When getting in touch please provide:

  1. Your position, including Faculty, School, Department
  2. The challenge area(s) you are interested in (from the list above, can be more than one)
  3. The expertise that you can bring to solve the challenges based on the list of expertise needed by the businesses.

How does it work?

  • The Innovation Labs follow a facilitated process led by a creative consultancy.
  • At each Lab we host 3-5 industry partners, working in teams of 4-6, with cross-discipline academic groups.
  • We work through defining the problem and generating a range of solutions, before concluding with the optimal project, which will be pitched to our expert panel for seed funding.
  • There is a strong emphasis on scoping for future large scale funding opportunities.

What is the benefit (or purpose)?

  • Successful, trusted model for business-academic collaboration; benefits from previous events can be found here and here.
  • Development of new cross-disciplinary relationships within the university.
  • Enhancing academic-business engagement by developing tangible project plans.
  • Seed-funding of £20,000 for successful projects
  • Opportunity for ECRs to provide academic expertise to help a business overcome a hurdle in their research.

What do we need from Academic researchers?

  • To attend with an open mind and collaborative approach to working with business and academics from other disciplines.
  • Share your knowledge and expertise with businesses to help combat challenges that they face in society.
  • Commit to attend the workshop and any follow up project work.
  • University support to help with growing collaborations into larger research funding proposals.